For those aspiring to be good videogame developers, tips from pros ,as little as they can be, may help a lot in our journey towards creating glorious-awesomeness (if there's such a word) videogames. Tips from an Uncharted 4 artist, now that's something interesting, coming from a big time company, creating awesome videogames that took time to develop, not rushed if you know what I mean (cough, Assassin's Creed, cough.)
I took a bit of dip in the gaming industry myself as game producer and at the same time handled scrum master tasks (look up agile scrum process) since head count was a bit low. The games we did weren't triple-A, just mobile games as that was the industry boom back then. Aside from my main jobs I also had experienced helping out in the art department since my artist was constantly being borrowed by other projects. Now I talk about these not because I wanted to give you my resume but just to introduce a concept of overseeing everything and at the same time doing most of them. The job gave me lots of ideas on how stuff work in the gaming industry which brings me to enlightenment on writing some article about how art should and should not be within a video game.
Tips from The Uncharted 4 Artist
As I read through online articles today, one made by Gamasutra.com caught my attention. The article is about how one Naughty Dog artist gives out tips on how to execute art on videogame levels and make them readable. Environment modeler Martin Teichmann, who works for Naughty Dog - where Uncharted and The Last of Us came from among other awesome games, shared a wonderful summary on how artwork should be in videogames. Or at least, what they are currently doing with their games, if you don't see it as an all-around standard.
A bit of sacrifice for the game's sake
Teichmann says, "Ideally you want to create a set of rules the player can learn and use throughout the entire game. It can be painful sometimes as it can interfere with your artwork, but good playability should always be first." Based on this statement, it is clear that art in games isn't everything; it has to work together with the game's content, concept, and mechanics - and in some cases, music and audio effects. After all, what good is an art-filled game if it is not playable or doesn't sustain enough attention in the first place? True it will have good art in it but if it isn't playable, you might as well hang it on the wall for people to see, not play.
Let the environment itself be a tooltip
Teichmann also confirmed that color and lighting are indeed powerful tools to lead the player in the created environment. I say confirmed because I went to some orientation about game art and this was one of the focused topics. To continue, the Naughty Dog artist cited an example: "it's important to separate the floor and the walls visually to make sure the player can read an environment easily. Also gameplay elements need to be visible even from distances." Yes, this is very noticeable in their games such as Uncharted. You can see from afar the ledges on walls or hill sides because they are highlighted but in a way that it is not painful to the eye, they just blend perfectly within the game environment.
You can check out this extensive writeup about Teichmann's interview if you wish to go deeper into the rabbit hole. It's got tons of images in it so you can visually understand some points about the topic. Here's the trailer of Uncharted 4 to refresh your memory on how good the artworks are: